The Nativity Fast, like any other fasting period, is a time to practice a spiritual discipline. As often has been pointed out, the goal of any Lent is not simply to change one’s diet, but more importantly to change one’s heart and mind in order to be a disciple of Christ.
St. John Cassian (d. 435AD), an early Christian monk frequently writes about the nature of fasting and how abstaining from food is not the goal of Lent or monasticsm or the Christian life, but a tool that all Christians use in combination with the virtues to follow Christ.
St. John writes:
“Fasting: By itself abstinence from food does not contribute to perfect purity of soul unless the other virtues are active as well. Humility, for example, practiced through obedience in our work and through bodily hardship, is a great help. Freedom from anger, from dejection, self-esteem and pride also contributes to purity of soul in general, while self-control and fasting are especially important for bringing about that specific purity of soul which comes through restraint and moderation. Our initial struggle therefore must be to gain control of our stomach and to bring our body into subjection not only through fasting, but also through vigils, labours and spiritual reading, and through concentrating our heart on, and longing for the kingdom of heaven.”
(quoted in Through the Year with the Church Fathers compiled by Emily Harakas, pg. 97)
Links to all of this year’s blogs related to the Nativity of Christ can be found at Christmas Blogs 2012.